Why the secrecy on film finances?

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BOSSES of CinemaNX have refused to allow the company’s financial statements to be made public.

The island’s movie industry has been in the spotlight in recent weeks following a series of questions raised by Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan) in the House of Keys and Tynwald about the level of returns on multimillion-pound investments.

Figures released in the House of Keys revealed that Treasury had approved funding of nearly £34m on 13 film projects since the setting up of CinemaNX 2007 – but the island’s movie industry brought in only £6.3m of income in that time while more than £10.5m has been written off.

In relation to the 84 film projects produced before CinemaNX, the total expenditure on approved investments had been £132.8m while income amounted to £61.9m. But ministers have insisted that no taxpayers’ money has been lost – and CinemaNX chairman Steve Christian said the industry had resulted in a total direct benefit to the Exchequer of up to £250m.

In Tynwald this week, Mr Karran asked Treasury Minister Anne Craine whether she had requested the director’s report and financial statements for the years ending June 2009 and June 2010 together with copies of the auditor’s report to be made public.

Mrs Craine replied that Treasury had requested permission to release the statements but added: ‘I would advise members that the principals of CinemaNX have expressed their wish that their financial statements are not released in the public domain.’

She said she respected the directors’ right to confidentiality. Mrs Craine said the independent auditor’s opinion on the financial statements for 2008, 2009 and 2010 confirmed that they presented a ‘true and fair view’ and there were no matters upon which they were required to produce an exception report.

Mr Karran asked: ‘Why the secrecy when such a large amount of public money is involved?’

Mrs Craine pointed out that CinemaNX is a private limited company. ‘It’s up to them if they wish to disclose the information or not. They [the financial reports] are commercially sensitive.’

Economic Development Minister Allan Bell questioned Mr Karran’s motives and suggested there may be ‘anonymous vested interests’ on whose behalf he was asking questions.

Mrs Craine replied: ‘I think it’s regrettable that he chooses to make such an issue of this.’ She said as a result of the bad headlines, the island was ‘on the verge of destroying part of the economy’.

Peter Karran asked 291 questions out of a total of 697 asked in the House of Keys and Tynwald between October 2010 and July this year.

In written reply to a question from former Liberal Vannin party member Bill Malarkey (Douglas South), Chief Minister Tony Brown said the total cost of asking eacxh questioon was £89.30.

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